To Restore or not to Restore!

Vijaylakshmi

The importance and need of ecological restoration has been discussed over and over again. It is one tool that assists in the recovery of an ecosystem that has either been degraded, damaged or destroyed. Where humans are considered to be agents of exploiting nature, ecological restoration is considered to be a technical task to restore natural and societal values. It is becoming part of discourses like culture, public policy and also education in different parts of world like North America, Australia and also some parts of Europe (Aronson et.al 2006). With rapid degradation of ecology worldwide, ecological restoration definitely has a role to play in conserving species, and also improving human well-being both materially and culturally.

With the rising need for restoration, a consideration of ‘what is good restoration’ also followed. Higgs (1997) mentions that the definition of good ecological restoration would vary from place to place. Ecological fidelity which can be understood as a combination of structural replication, functional success and durability, is a technical way of defining good restoration. But the concern over achieving a definition of good restoration should begin by raising some difficult questions. To what state should it be restored? How much should be spent on achieving goals? Is it better to have many, or just few good ones? Higgs also remarks that restoration practices which include ecological fidelity and social & cultural goals hold higher chances of being successful.

There are several ecosystems which are in need of ecological restoration. The planning for how it can be implemented in a away which would benefit ecology and society is modified as per the need. However, before beginning with the plan of restoration, it would be advantageous to analyse if there is any need for restoration at all. Also, it is important to gauge if the efforts at restoration would be successful or not. A recent article from the journal Restoration Ecology brings out a noteworthy thought on knowing when to and when not to attempt ecological restoration. Johnson et.al (2017) suggests two steps to ensure before pursuing restoration; (i) detailed interpretation of change in community composition, and (ii) whether restoration is practicable. Furthermore, some crucial questions which have been raised by authors relate to how changes are perceived where community shifts from one form to another. This change could be a typical fluctuation in a properly functioning ecosystem. In addition to this, even if intervention is required, how is it decided what kind of intervention is needed, or whether the intervention would succeed. Here, ecology experts need to distinguish whether the change in community is a typical fluctuation or a phase shift in which community has transformed fundamentally into another form of system. Such debates and confusion has been discussed in the same article. The article concludes by referring to the requirement of deep knowledge of natural history, key species and identification of factors which shape that particular ecosystem. Besides, all the effort of restoration would be in vain if stressors and agents of degradation are not identified, and most importantly rectified.

Reference:

(i) Aronson, J., Clewell, A. F., Blignaut, J. N., & Milton, S. J. (2006). Ecological restoration: A new frontier for nature conservation and economics. Journal for nature conservation14(3), 135-139.

(ii) Higgs, E. S. (1997). What is good ecological restoration? Conservation biology11(2), 338-348.

(iii) Johnson, C. R., Chabot, R. H., Marzloff, M. P., & Wotherspoon, S. (2017). Knowing when (not) to attempt ecological restoration. Restoration Ecology25(1), 140-147.

Featured Image by Ryan Hagerty, USFWS from pixnio.com

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